Scared Stiff for “Board Stiff”
By Elaine Viets
Can you stand up from a kneeling position, with a paddle in your hand?
How about in nine feet of water?
For “Board Stiff,” my Dead-End Job Mystery, I learned to paddleboard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I paddled for 45 minutes on the wide, flat board without falling down, the greatest athletic feat of my life.
Paddleboard ads show women in bikinis. Not me. I wore a T-shirt that went down to my knees. I would have worn an 1890s bathing suit, if I had one.
In “Board Stiff,” Sunny Jim Sundusky, who owns a beachside paddleboard concession, hires married PIs Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont to find out who’s trying to drive him out of business. The scare tactics turn murderous, and Helen and Phil have to hunt for a killer.
Helen’s paddleboard lesson was like mine:
The water “was a polished silver disc under a tender pink sky. Tree branches dipped gracefully into the silvery water. Helen could hear the rustling of pelicans settling in for the night. She followed Sunny Jim to the white sand crescent of beach at the foot of the trailer. A castaway’s beach, complete with broken shells and a coconut. Yellow boards floated in the shallow water near the shore, each with an orange life vest on its nose.
Jim took two black plastic paddles off the rack, and stood them up next to Helen. “The paddle should be about eight inches taller than you.”
Helen followed him into the lake. The sun-warmed water felt good on Helen’s bare legs and the white sandy lake bottom was toe-friendly.
“See this handle in the middle of the board?” Jim asked. “That’s the center. You get on there with your paddle, in a kneeling position.”
He gracefully kneeled on his board. It rocked slightly, like a well-filled waterbed.
“Then you stand up, holding your paddle. You need to keep your feet eight inches apart. It’s a misconception that if you have a nice wide stance you’ll be stable.”
He rose up gracefully as a sea god, paddle in both hands, then made wide, smooth strokes, moving slightly away from the shore. “Come on,” he said. “Try it. The secret is don’t look down. Look forward or you’ll lose your balance.”
Helen climbed awkwardly onto her board. The long, wide board had shrunk to a skinny, unstable strip. It shifted under her weight, but she was kneeling on it. Helen felt so relieved, she wanted to sit down.
Helen stood up gingerly and the board shifted like a seesaw. But she was standing and still holding her paddle.
“Great!” he said. “You did it. Now relax your hips, knees and ankles.” Jim did a little dance on his shifting board. “You should be so loose you can do the merengue,” he said.
Why is it when peoples say “relax,” my body goes as rigid as this board? Helen wondered. She stuck her paddle awkwardly into the water and took a few tentative strokes.
“Wider, Helen,” Jim said. “Flex your knees. Reach forward and pull your board through the water, not your paddle. Keep your arms straight, like this.”
He looked like a praying mantis with a paddle as he skimmed across the surface. “You want to cover eleven or twelve feet per stroke.”
Helen took a few longer strokes with her paddle and moved away from the beach toward Jim. She relaxed a bit and felt her body shift. The panic must have showed in her face. Jim’s voice became soothing. “Don’t look down. Paddle away from that pipe sticking into the water. It’s covered with rocks and barnacles.”
And green mold, she thought, eying the pipe uneasily. She rowed away from the corrugated metal drainage pipe studded with sharp and slimy disaster.
“Good. Row!” Jim cried.
The tense muscles in Helen’s arms ached. She found it easier to paddleboard while she talked to Jim. “You must have a natural sense of balance,” she said.
Jim shrugged. “You’d be amazed what you can do on a paddleboard. Fishing. Yoga.”
“People do yoga on these boards?” Helen asked.
“Sure,” he said. “Fall off and it’s an instant cool down.”
Helen and Jim paddled quietly past nesting birds, long, low homes with hurricane shutters on the windows, and a pink condo with a pool jutting over the water.
“Well, what do you think of stand up paddleboarding?” Jim asked.
“I like it,” Helen said. “I like how I paddled right up to that bird. Paddleboarding really lets you get close to nature.”
“Certainly does,” said Jim, studying a bikinied redhead by the condo pool.
A speeding blue Jet Ski whipped into view, leaving wide waves in its wake. One. Two. Three.
Helen toppled into the water when the fourth wave slapped her board.
She felt a shock when her head went under water. She thrashed around and surfaced sputtering. Helen bobbed in the water, pulled her long wet brown hair out of her eyes and swam toward her paddle. Her yellow board floated just beyond it.
“You fell very gracefully,” Jim said.
Board Stiff (Dead End Job Mystery - Book 12) by Elaine Viets
Publication Date: 05/06/2014
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Obsidian Mystery
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Obsidian Mystery)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, Indiebound
Elaine Viets on the WEB: website, twitter, facebook, goodreads
Books in the series:
Dead End Job Mystery
1. Shop Till You Drop
2. Murder Between the Covers
3. Dying to Call You
4. Just Murdered
5. Murder Unleashed
6. Murder With Reservations
7. Clubbed to Death
8. Killer Cuts
9. Half-Price Homicide
10. Pumped for Murder
11. Final Sail
12. Board Stiff
Coverart: Click the Image for a larger, clearer view of the covers in this series.
Husband and wife PI team Helen Hawthorne and Phil Sagemont are about to find out murder is no day at the beach….
There’s a dark cloud over Sunny Jim’s Stand-Up Paddleboard Rental business on Florida’s Riggs Beach—especially after one of his clients is killed in a tragic paddleboarding mishap. Sunny Jim is sure it was no accident, and he hires Helen and Phil to find the murderer.
Between competitors poaching his territory, the city threatening to revoke his license, and a wrongful death suit filed by the victim’s husband, Sunny Jim may soon be up the creek without a paddle. Luckily, he has Helen and Phil on his side. As the couple investigates, they discover dark undercurrents of corruption behind the cheerful facades of the beachfront businesses. But the sands of time are running out, and if they don’t catch the killer soon, Sunny Jim won’t be the only one to go under….
Elaine Viets returns to her Dead End Job mystery series with her latest book, Board Stiff. Readers who are fans of the series love the sunny South Florida setting, complete with beaches, killer waves and plain old killers. This is a great whodunit featuring a paddleboard business and shady character who doesn't want it to succeed. This one is all about secrets and how they destroy lives. Viets does a fantastic job of keeping this long running series fresh and up to date. A great addition to the series.
What I liked:
Who doesn't like a great husband and wife investigative team. Helen and her husband Phil have survived 12 books now and are going strong. I think they make such a fantastic team. Viets makes sure that each book explores more about them, especially, Helen. She has changed and grown so much throughout the series that I always wonder if there is anymore to learn about her. But Viets always comes through and gives readers a little something more to endear them to this character. In Board Stiff readers may find that there are still a few secrets in Helen's closet and Phil has a few of his own. Great characters from a very talented writer.
This series features the bright and sunny setting of the beach. South Florida seems to be the perfect setting for a great mystery. When Viets first started this series, I didn't think it would be one that would last this long. I am from the country and didn't think there would be that may interesting scenarios around a beachside town. I was wrong. The beach setting takes on all the characteristics of a character in this series, since it is so important to the overall fabric of each book. In Board Stiff we had a paddleboard business in trouble and Helen and Phil are called in to see who wants it to close and how far they will go to make it happen. I loved the theme, and the setting was perfect. This would make a perfect beach read.
The mystery wasn't necessarily all about murder this time. Accidents start to happen and eventually it all comes down to secrets. I thought Viets did a great job with the theme and carried it through every aspect of the book from the mystery elements to Helen's personal life. It gave the book a lot of continuity and it felt like every eventually started fitting together like the pieces of a puzzle. It was probably one of my favorites of this series because the beach was literally littered with evidence.
What I didn't like:
I certainly didn't know there were that many dead end jobs in a small beach side town. But Viets continues to come up with them and she continues to thrill fans with good quality writing and engaging characters. Not much to criticize here.
This is a great series with a beautiful sunny setting for murder. I liked the character development that Viets gives readers in Helen and I thought this particular dead end job was interesting. This would make a great beach read!
Board Stiff is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I'm giving this one 5 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
Elaine Viets has actually worked many of those dead-end jobs in her mystery novels, just like her character Helen Hawthorne. She is the author of the Dead-End Job mysteries, including Final Sail, Pumped for Murder, and Half-Price Homicide, the Josie Marcus, Mystery Shopper series, including Murder is a Piece of Cake and Death on a Platter, and numerous short stories. Elaine has won an Anthony Award and an Agatha Award. She lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with her husband, reporter Don Crinklaw.
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